Australia — TEN homes have been destroyed or badly damaged in a deliberately lit bushfire at Lake Clifton south of Perth, with many evacuated residents still waiting to learn if their homes were spared.
About 140 firefighters worked through today to tighten containment lines around the fire as wind shifts threatened.
The fire, about 100km south of Perth, is believed to have been deliberately lit and WA Police arson squad officers have been on the scene.
The Fire and Emergency Services Authority (FESA) said an aerial survey this afternoon confirmed nine houses and a granny flat had been destroyed or badly damaged along with numerous outbuildings and vehicles as the fire swept through yesterday afternoon and overnight.
FESA incident controller John Tillman said residents of the worst-hit area in the Armstrong Hills subdivision might not be allowed to return until late tomorrow, after roads were safe and burning trees and downed powerlines were taken care of.
“I’m sure they are going through a whole range of emotions, as you can imagine. People have lost everything they own, destroyed in a single fire, and it being an arson-caused fire, it probably just enrages that situation,” Mr Tillman said.
Livestock, vehicles, powerlines and fences were also destroyed in the fire that started in plantation areas just before noon yesterday.
About 200 residents who evacuated the threatened suburbs of Tuart Grove and the Armstrong Hills attended a public meeting in the town of Waroona today.
They were told that roads around the fireground remained closed and they might not be allowed back in until tomorrow.
An evacuation centre has been set up at the Waroona recreation centre.
Mr Tillman said the fire was contained but not secure, and firefighters still had a lot of work to do.
“If we can get through today holding the current perimeter, then we are reasonably confident.”
Several ignition points had been found for the fire, indicating arson, and police have asked for information about a green sedan seen in the area just before the fire started.
Armstrong Hills couple Diane France and Brian Latch evacuated yesterday afternoon and said a neighbour who stayed told them their house was okay.
Ms France said a house only 300m away had burnt down and they saw horses trapped on a neighbouring property but did not have time to rescue them.
“The horses were running around frantically,” she said.
Chris Long, 71, said he had driven through the fire to check on friends who he found were OK.
“I got a bit of a shock going through the fires,” Mr Long said.
He saw a burning house cave in as he drove past, then a bus on fire, and a sparking electricity transformer fell on the road in front of him.
Armstrong Hills resident Greg Brown said he and his elderly parents decided to leave when the house next door caught fire, and they still don’t know if their property was intact.
“At the end of the day it’s only bricks and mortar,” he said.
Phil Brooks, 50, and his daughter Katarina, 19, left Tuart Grove with their dogs on Monday afternoon.
“It started getting hairy about three o’clock. You could see the loom of the flames on the other side of the hill. It was time to leave,” Mr Brooks said.